Yesterday was an important day for the Seahawks offseason. We can bemoan the lack of clear solution for the pass rush to this point, but the most damaging potential decision the team could have made was dedicating $10M+ per year for the next few years to have Germain Ifedi occupy the right tackle spot. We now know the team will not make that mistake. That non-move is arguably more exciting than any signing the team has made thus far.
Ifedi is an average right tackle. We love to hate on him, but he has some good moments and some bad. The bad tend to stick with us more. The problem with resigning him is all about opportunity cost. For one, the money that would have gone to him would have precluded the team from shifting their resources to other areas of need. Second, it keeps a potentially better option from emerging at an important offensive line position.
Seattle signed three players to their offensive line. None of them are household names. We will get to the most exciting one last. Brandon Shell has been a starter for the Jets the past few seasons. He profiles out to be a very similar player to Ifedi. Big dude. Mediocre pass protector, mediocre run blocker. The difference is he will cost only $5.5M per year. Even Ifedi would be somewhat appealing at that price, but I prefer this because there is a chance that someone better could emerge.
Seattle could still choose to draft a young lineman. They could allow Jamarco Jones to compete for the right tackle spot. They have some options. None of them are so expensive that the team is locked in to any one of them.
You might think that the signing of Shell plus another tackle, Cedric Ogbuehi, means Jones will not be considered for right tackle. I do not assume that and continue to believe that would be a mistake by the Seahawks. Ogbuehi is a backup swing tackle who could just as easily take on the George Fant tackle eligible role. He has mostly played left tackle in his career. Jones has been the backup left tackle. Perhaps, this allows Jones to either start at guard or compete at right tackle.
The most encouraging signing thus far has to be B.J. Finney. He was an interior lineman for the Steelers, playing both guard spots and center. I’m hopeful this means the Seahawks are going to be wise enough to move on from Justin Britt and shift his salary to more important parts of the team. Having $9M go to a slightly above average center on the last year of his contract instead of a pass rusher or nickel corner would be a really bad decision.
Finney’s addition increases the likelihood Britt could be gone. That also creates the potential for improved center play. There could be a competition between Finney, Ethan Pocic, Joey Hunt, and Phil Haynes. Many forget Pocic was a center in college and that may be his best position. Haynes started to learn the position last year after Britt was injured. If either Finney or Haynes won the starting center spot, the other would be in line to compete for the starting left guard spot.
I would have preferred the Seahawks sign a more clearcut upgrade at right tackle. Bryan Bulaga was cheap. George Fant went for the same price. Jack Conklin went for a very reasonable $14M per year. Here’s the thing: Conklin did not want to come to Seattle. He wanted to stay closer to home. Cannot blame the Seahawks for that. Fant wanted to play left tackle. Seattle could not offer him that. Bulaga stings, but maybe he did not want to come here either. After years of Green Bay, playing in San Diego might be exactly what he wants.
The tendency is to blame the front office for not getting player A or player B, but that assumes those players were equally available to them. That is rarely the case. Still, I tend to believe the Seahawks do not value paying veteran offensive linemen in free agency because they have very rarely done it, even with their own players (see Russell Okung, J.R. Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, etc.).
This is a serious flaw in their personnel strategy. They have made the same mistake time and again, and the team has suffered as a result. If you know that young linemen coming out of college are poorly trained due to the air raid and other changes, as they have often claimed, then they logical plan is to invest in veteran NFL linemen who have proven themselves and learned the trade. It obviously has to be a mix, but the team has missed way too many chances to solidify their line by always trying to go bargain basement and young draft picks.
Seattle did add some pass rush help in former first-round pick Bruce Irvin. He had 8.5 sacks last year, and usually good for 6-8 per season. That is fine for a rotational pass rusher. The upside that most are missing here is Irvin could also reprise his role as starting SAM linebacker.
That position has been a rotating door since Irvin left. He was the perfect athlete for that spot in the Seahawks defense. He is physical enough to set the edge and can rush the passer and even cover. Yes, he is older, but that position is not nearly as crucial as the other linebacker spots and should go back to being on the field far less often.
It could be interesting to see some rush packages with Irvin and Shaquem Griffin on the edges. That’s a lot of speed, which could open up some interior rush lanes for guys like Jarran Reed and Jadeveon Clowney (once he signs).
Yes, I continue to believe the team will sign Clowney. Their offseason hinges on it. I also believe the team will acquire a second top-shelf pass rusher. My guess has been Yannick Ngakoue via trade. Schneider and Carroll have been clear pass rush is their top priority. There is no way they think Reed, Clowney and Irvin is a fix. When they want to address something, they are aggressive. Trades are a big part of Schneider’s arsenal.
He could also go after Everson Griffen in free agency. He is less appealing to me because I worry about his mental health after the serious challenges he faced a year or two ago. Ngakoue is a flourishing young prospect who could be a Cliff Avril-type for years to come.
The Seahawks are certainly making us wait longer than some of us expected to make some big splashes. The pool is not yet empty. I think Schneider is about to step onto the diving board.